Sunday 17 June 2018

Over 1,200 killed as floods continue to swamp cities

Pakistani commuters travel on a flooded street following heavy rainfall in Karachi. Photo: AP/Shakil Adil
Pakistani commuters travel on a flooded street following heavy rainfall in Karachi. Photo: AP/Shakil Adil

Antonia Ellwood in Karachi

At least 13 people have been killed by flooding in Pakistan's largest city Karachi, after heavy monsoon rains hit the sprawling metropolis overnight, officials said yesterday.

The deaths were the latest in a disaster that has so far killed more that 1,200 people across the region encompassing India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Karachi's deluge came a day after India's financial centre Mumbai was hit with floods that killed 14 people.

Pakistan's military was delivering aid to the city where main streets were flooded, cars abandoned and hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes.

The private Edhi Foundation, which runs ambulances and medical centres, said it had confirmed 13 people dead and 350 to 400 houses inundated near the Lyari River.

Karachi's city administration requested army assistance, including water pumps, after the heavy overnight rains, the military said in a statement.

Countries in the region suffer frequent flooding during the June-September monsoon season.

But international aid agencies say things have been worse than normal this year.

As Mumbai mops up after its worst floods in more than a decade, experts say India must police urban sprawl more tightly to protect its packed cities from ever more frequent, fatal floods.

Urban planning needs to radically improve, they say, to ensure land is used safely as developers rush to cash in on India's rural poor moving to cities in ever greater numbers.

If not, people will continue to die.

"The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is rising, yet we plan infrastructure only after building over everything," environmentalist Debi Goenka told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As Mumbai struggled to cope, similar flooding hit the cities of Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, while nearly 300 were killed in floods in the southern city of Chennai in 2015.

Meanwhile, after days of hurricane winds, torrential rain and catastrophic floods, the US city of Houston in Texas is gradually giving up its dead.

Firefighters, wearied by long days of rescues, began the grim process of going door-to-door, block-by-block through the streets yesterday searching for stranded survivors and the bodies of those less fortunate.

While Harvey - now downgraded to a tropical depression - moved on to the Louisiana border, a new hurricane, Irma, formed in the central Atlantic Ocean, bearing out predictions of a busy storm season.

Combined with chemical fires, shortages of drinking water and fresh flood alerts elsewhere in Texas, no one knows when normality will return.

The death toll reached 35 yesterday, a number that is expected to grow further as receding floodwaters allow searchers to reach previously inaccessible homes and cars. (© Daily Telegraph, London and Agencies)

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News